Sept 2013 New Round Up

tuberculosis vaccine for food allergies

In the September 2013 news round up, we bring your news about a world-first trial in Australia involving hundreds in newborn babies receiving the tuberculosis vaccine in the hope to stamp out food allergies, asthma, eczema and hayfever through to news about a enzyme that has been identified as a potential treatment for peanut allergy.

Tuberculosis vaccine may help stamp out food allergies

The Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) that was used to virtually eradicate tuberculosis in Australia is now being used in a world-first trial involving hundreds of newborn babies in Victoria, Australia. Melbourne researchers believe the BCG vaccine may boost children’s immune systems and reduce food allergies, asthma, eczema and hayfever.

The study is being conducted by researchers at The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and University of Melbourne who say the BCG vaccine appears to encourage the babies’ immune system to develop in a way that is better at fighting infections and less prone to allergies. Given the same vaccine is still given to 120 million of the 133 million babies born in high-risk or developing countries, it is known to be a simple, safe and well-tolerated vaccine.

A total of 1400 babies born at the Mercy Hospital in Melbourne will be recruited for the trial, with 700 to receive the BCG vaccine.

For more information about the study or to register for the trial go to www.misbair.org.au

‘Gluten Free’ definition regulated in USA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published a new regulation defining the term ‘gluten-free’ for voluntary food labelling. The regulation was published on 2 August 2013.

The new US definition aims to provide a uniform standard definition for the term ‘gluten free’. It requires that in order to use the voluntary term ‘gluten-free’ on a food label, the food must meet all the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten”, “free of gluten”, and “without gluten” to meet the definition for ‘gluten-free’. Food manufacturers will have a year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements.

Recognising that the use of the ‘gluten free’ term on the label remains voluntary, the final rule applies to all FDA-regulated foods, including dietary supplements, as well as imported foods offered for sale in the USA. Any foods sold in a food service establishment on restaurant menus should also be consistent with this new regulatory definition.

The FDA used an analytical methods-based approach to define the term ‘gluten free’ and adopted < 20 ppm gluten as one of the criteria for a food labelled ‘gluten free’ because the agency relies upon scientifically validated methods for enforcing its regulations. Analytical methods that are scientifically validated to reliably detect gluten at a level lower than 20 ppm are not currently available.

In addition, some coeliac disease researchers and some epidemiological evidence suggest that most individuals with coeliac disease can tolerate variable trace amounts and concentrations of gluten in foods (including levels that are less than 20 ppm gluten) without causing adverse health effects.

More information about the FDA definition of gluten free, including a series of useful ‘Questions & Answers’ can be found on the FDA website.

Enzyme traget for preventing allergic reactions to food

An enzyme, known as Cyp11a1, has recently been identified as a potential target for treatment of peanut allergy and also has potential for treating allergic reactions to other foods. The discovery was made by researchers at the US respiratory hospital, National Jewish Health, and the findings have been published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The Cyp11a1 enzyme promotes the first and rate-limiting step in the production of corticosteroids which are key to the manifestation of allergic reactions to peanuts and other foods. Corticosteroids are thought to activate the immune cells associated with allergic reactions. The researchers showed that blocking the activity of Cyp11a1 in peanut-sensitised mice prevented the symptoms of diarrhoea and inflammation when the mice were challenged with peanut. Plasma levels of several proteins associated with food allergic reactions were also reduced.

Based on these results, it would appear that if a safe way to block the activity of the Cyp11a1 enzyme in people with peanut allergy was found this would serve as a novel treatment option. However, further research is required before these findings could be translated into a therapy for allergy sufferers.

Reference: Wang et al. 2013. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2013.05.027

AOAC Food Allergn Community Newsletter – Issue 2, 2013

The AOAC Food Allergen Community is a forum serving the scientific community working on Food Allergens. Issue 2 of their newsletter for 2013 has recently been published. It features a broad range of interesting and relevant articles including more information about the FDA’s definition of the term ‘gluten-free’, written by Jupiter Yeung from Nestle Nutrition.

Other articles probe topics such as Health Canada’s position on the allergenic potential of highly refined oils and the Integrated Approaches for Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Assessment (iFAAM) project. The four year iFAAM project started in March 2013 and is the world’s largest allergen study with 9M Euro funding from the European Commission.

An article by Terry Koerner from Health Canada details the work being done by members of the AOAC allergen community to co-ordinate an approach to validating ELISA methods to be used for the measurement of the unintended gluten presence in foods. A guidance document relating to this was published in May 2013. Further steps within this initiative will be discussed in more detail in subsequent issues of the AOAC Food Allergen Community Newsletter.

The current issue draws attention to a special issue of The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published earlier this year which focussed on Food Allergens. The issue compiled a series of studies presented at the symposium “Advances in Food Allergen Detection” that was held in March 2012 in San Diego, CA.

Health Canada also announced the forthcoming Eighth Workshop on Food Allergen Methodologies to be held in May 2014 in Vancouver, Canada.

The newsletter can be accessed here, or to receive these newsletters in your inbox, send an email to: AOAC.Allergens@gmail.com with the word “Subscribe” in the subject line.